Who are novelists voting for?

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Oct. 11 2004 6:51 PM

Roll Call

Who are novelists voting for?

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John Kerry: If he doesn't win, I'll have to be Canadian for the next four years.

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I'm voting for John Kerry. This will be my first foray into the voting booth, actually—for the most part I find politics alienating, difficult to process. I'll save the bulk of my anti-Bush rant for late-night bar chatter, and simply say that a cousin of mine spent a year fighting with the Army in Iraq. He was a harder man when he returned, tweaked, difficult to relate to. His stories were crushing—did you know that there are giant spiders that creep up on sleeping soliders at night? That this is the sort of thing that causes nightmares, even more than random mortar fire?—and didn't exactly bring hope that anyone understands what's going on over there. Does Bush care about any of this, the nuanced ways his global policies affect individuals—how this, really, in the end, is what politics is all about? Yeah, I believe he does, but I don't think he's got the gumption to talk about it—or, for that matter, anything—honestly. For all his swaggering bravado, the guy has no real backbone, no confidence in anything but his squinty little grin, which is frightening.

But why Kerry, aside from his status as Democratic Other Guy, which, frankly, would be enough for me this year? Well, I like his stoicism—he seems smart, and serious, and sort of boring, and exactly like the kind of man I can't relate to, which is what I want from a leader. I don't understand why we're so keen on having someone who seems cool and perfectly personable—I have friends for that, late-night TV, strangers in parks. Really, though, the clincher came when I stumbled across some excerpts of Kerry's Vietnam journals. I couldn't help but think: the writing, the writing, the writing. It was hard and real and surprisingly beautiful, which, for me, was something I could believe in.

I will vote for John Kerry, the political scene is distressing just now—vacuous speeches on both sides. G. Bush seems triumphant, but it's a long, long way to November!

I'm voting for Kerry. I've just discovered that, through some unsurprising accident of the Board of Elections, I'm actually registered to vote in two different counties. So I'm considering voting for him twice. I really think it's not alarmist to say that if Bush is reelected to another four years, it may be the end of life as we know it. Certainly it will be the end of life for many species, including huge numbers of the species Homo sapiens. Nothing has ever caused me such sustained anger, fear, and sadness as the current administration, and the future they're driving us all toward.

More than any other election in recent memory, this one reminds me of Henry Adams' observation that politics is the systematic organization of hatreds.

The left-wing political road rage directed at George W. Bush for being dumb and lying about the war reminds me of nothing so much as the right-wing obsessive invective directed at Bill Clinton for being smart and lying about sex. Rush Limbaugh versus Michael Moore, and let the man nursing the most unrequited rage win. The DRAMA and spectacle of the election will be fascinating to watch, but novelists, even more than actors, should be political agnostics.

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